Racism won’t die in 2020
...but now is the time to give it a terminal illness
As a black man in America, I’ve been asked a lot about how I feel regarding all things related to the heart breaking murder of George Floyd and everything that has unfolded as a result. While I appreciate the love and care I’ve received from my white friends, all of which I believe are genuinely looking high and low for ways to be supportive in all this, I also feel as though it’s been an overwhelmingly unfair line of questioning. There is simply way more to unpack here than I think many of them realize. Way more than I can cover in one post. Way more than is possible for them to ever truly know.
I’ll never forget my first school dance. Too young to drive, I got a ride to her parents house. She looked beautiful in her dress, and wearing my best suit we got a ride from my parents to dinner first. I went to pay the bill, and to my surprise, it was covered by her dad. Also to my surprise, she seemed a bit awkward about it. I said, “What’s wrong? That was so nice of your dad!” She replied, “I’m sorry, he did it because he thought if I let you pay then you’d make me have sex with you since you’re black.”
As I look, listen, read and watch other black men and women respond to what happened to George Floyd, the best single word answer I’ve seen that I think most closely encapsulates what I’m feeling is “tired.”
This is tiring.
Being a black person in America is tiring.
Being a black person in America has always been tiring.
Tiring because of the rage that this feeds inside myself and all of my black and brown brothers and sisters. Tiring because of required force to keep that rage within, and channel that energy towards constructive means. Tiring because at the end of the day a lot of people can apparently see how “a few bad cops” don’t represent all cops, but when people go out and riot and loot stores they can’t recognize that what those people are doing doesn’t diminish the message of the peaceful protesters. Tiring because I know many of the same people who are loud about the tragedy of today, will get quiet when it comes time to choose whether to A) cast a vote that protects what they have or B) cast one that prioritizes and promotes equality and a better future for all people.
A woman I dated years ago had a friend who was really a sweet girl. She’d been in bad relationships before, and we were thinking about how it would be great if she finally met a nice guy. We got on the subject of if that guy could be a black guy, and it was explained to me that while she might date or have fun with a black guy… she’d never marry him. Further explained to me… she wasn’t like racist or anything, but she was raised more “traditional.”
But mostly I’m tired I think because… pardon my french… this shit is not fucking new.
Michael Vick rightfully served nearly 2 years in prison for murdering and torturing dogs… which is more jail time than what resulted from the deaths of nearly 100 unarmed black men killed by police officers in 2015 alone.
Not only are African-Americans incarcerated at over 5 times the rate of whites, but if they were incarcerated at the same rate of whites - our prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40%.
I can’t believe I actually have to remind some people of this, but the “I can’t breathe” shirts that are being worn by protesters are… you guessed it… not new. They were most likely pulled out of the closet from 2014 after Eric Garner said those words 11 times before the officer choking him finished taking his life.
So… can you understand why I might get tired, even just from my own sheer skepticism, of white people talking about the prospect of change?
What’s different this time? George Floyd, may he rest in peace, is another man in a long line of men who was brutally murdered by white men in authority. What is going to be so different this time, that I as a black man in America should put my hope in the idea that for once white people en masse would recognize their white privilege so distinctly that there is lasting, meaningful change?
As a venture capitalist, I’ve managed over 100 investments deploying millions of dollars into American businesses and entrepreneurs. I often go to networking events, dinners, and conferences... often speaking, mentoring or up for the occasional award. Without fail, I have at least one white man ask me if 1) I’m a student, and/or 2) who I work for. Even, when they see my nametag and firm, I’m often asked which junior level role do I have, how long have I been there, or effectively who’s my boss. What’s the best way for me to say, “I’m a Partner, bitch?” Better question is, without me (or another black person) telling you that, what does your perception (or lack of respect) based on skin cause you to do / act / say / miss out on?
Many have been asking me some real questions during this time seeking to understand, and one idea we talked around was this idea of hope for future generations. In short, is there a chance that even though the immediate end of racism in America is unlikely… could we not have hope that the children growing up in this moment will be the generation that gets this right? That recognizes the evil? That sacrifices its privilege? That ends racism?
My response to this, again, is why should I put my hope in that? Why should this be any different than when Rodney King was brutally beaten? Why will this be any different than when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated? What will be more impactful on today’s children than those who were growing up while over 200,000 people peacefully marched and gathered, pre-internet, for Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” Speech?
Those same kids are cops killing black people, parents telling their daughters black men are rapists, and professionals letting their bias dictate who they do business with and how.
It’s my opinion, unfortunately, that racism won’t die in 2020. Fires are burning, people are tweeting, people are dying, people are mourning. Rage and suffering are in the air. But, if I had to bet, I wouldn’t bet on racism dying this year. I can’t speak for all people of color, but I doubt I’d find much disagreement.
There is hope, though.
I’m hesitant to open my heart to the idea at risk of it being stomped and suffocated on the street... but I do believe there is hope.
The odds are stacked against us, but I do believe if people really want racism to die, this could be the year it gets “a terminal illness.”
The hope I have for this beautiful disease to put racism down once and for all lies not just in what we do today, but what we do tomorrow. What we do next week. What we do next month. What we do in 3 months, 6 months, a year and all the years to come.
If your anti-racist rage is going to burn hot today, flame out tomorrow, and not be around when it’s time to vote - don’t bother.
If your anti-racist rage is going to cause a tweet-storm for the ages, but not be enough to ensure your organization and industry sources, screens, and brings black and brown people into the fold 2 years from now - don’t bother.
If your anti-racist rage is compelling you to protest publicly and tell all your black friends you’ve got their backs, but your son or daughter is going to get raised in a more “traditional” way - don’t bother.
If you’re a police officer who is kneeling today in recognition of evil, but you won’t stand up to your fellow officer who you witness doing wrong by another human being who happens to be a minority - don’t bother.
If you think all of this is really bad and racism still exists in some places, but you don’t recognize your privilege in this country and aren’t committed to continually checking yourself on that until racism is truly dead…
Make no mistake - I know there are many, many white people in this country who are unbelievable warriors for change and allies for people that look like me. Many of which I know and have the privilege and honor to personally call friends. And, I realize this writing may come across as pessimistic, depressing, defeated. However, my goal here is not for us all to put our tail between our legs and just succumb to the inevitability that is racism.
Rather, my goal is to call out the inconvenient truth.
The inconvenient truth, that against all odds - carries with it perhaps some hope. Some hope that, should all the rage that is being drummed up by the murder of George Floyd last each of us looking to end racism through this night, and the next, and all those to follow… WE may be the disease that proves terminal to racism’s evil.
Check out my follow up post… “There's No Debate: Good People Aren't Good Enough“